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Old 03-18-03, 11:09 AM   #1
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Apple Toronto

I am moving to Toronto this Spring/Summer, and am interested in the rules, regulations, and customs for performing street magic in Toronto. I have performed on Fisherman's Wharf in SF (mostly cards; some rubber band tricks; also use "Dean's Box"), and am interested in doing the same in Toronto.

Also interested in recommended locations in Toronto.

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Old 03-19-03, 04:54 PM   #2
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Toronto is a big city with a relatively small busking scene, so etiquite wise there're not many "toronto idiosyncrasies". Things are definitely picking up, if you're good there's some really big potentials. They've flattened half of a city block across the Eaton's centre and made a really nice looking park. I think it's gonna rock. I'll be starting doing shows there next weekend.

That intersection is really the best place to do street shows. There's always lots of traffic. Other areas include the waterfront just a mile down the road. Last year there was a committee that held auditions and issued licences. Look into it when you get here. It was held in April of last year.

Also Eli, of Zero Gravity Circus organized a weekend road closure downtown, which was pretty good.

You can also contact Elizabeth at "Epilepsy Toronto" they're the hosts of toronto Buskerfest, held in august in front of city hall.

That said, my show rig is big, and requires a lot of space, if you're doing close up there's a few places along Queen St, the best corner is Queen and Spadina.

Hope that helps. Peace.

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Old 03-19-03, 05:05 PM   #3
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What is the weather doing there? Does the season there start fairly early? Is there a night club scene that hires entertainment? If so who shall I contact I will be in the area at the later part of May.
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Old 03-24-03, 02:36 AM   #4
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Weather is finally starting to warm up here. +10c or something today. Was doing circle shows in Germany at -5 to -10c back in december. Laff no chance here under the same conditions. Been back in Toronto since mid December, and wanted nothing else to get on pitch for a show. Looks like I'm flying back to Germany though, so if any of you make it up here before April 1st or so look me up. Hope to see ya on pitch Dynamike.

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Old 03-28-03, 08:51 PM   #5
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Stickman and other toronto buskers.

The air is warm, the sun's been shining. I say we start the season early. I'll be at Yonge and Dundas tomorrow starting shows between 3 and 5. I'd love if we had a draw at 6 for the evening. But then again I'd love to hoard all the crowds for myself. Hope to see you there.
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Old 06-13-04, 06:51 AM   #6
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Following is from Toronto Star 6/12/04 online. Editor's note at the end says it's the first of a series on street performers in the city.

Headline: Fired up for a road show
The streets aren't necessarily paved with gold for those who live off performing for passersby But Fireguy loves the `integrity'


The little girl is holding her mother's hand tightly, eyes as wide as saucers. The man before her is throwing burning sticks and sticking a flaming sword right into his mouth. Playing with fire is something you're not supposed to do; she knows that.

We are standing with about 50 other people some fascinated, some amused, some wearing a skeptical "show me" expression on Queen St. W. near Spadina, watching the Fireguy do what he calls stupid skateboard tricks while juggling torches and making jokes.

"Sir, I see you have your hands in your pocket. If you attempt to applaud, you will damage you testicles," he says. The crowd snickers.

He holds his four flaming torches aloft in one hand, imitating the Statue of Liberty, then turns around and crosses them behind his bottom: "And this is Hot Cross Buns." Some groans from the audience.

A man in a car pulls up on the roadway behind him, and throws in a comment. "Well hello, there," says the Fireguy, turning around and extending his hand. "Do you have a backstage pass?"

Now there's a good-natured lecture on the right amount to tip at the end of the act somewhere between $2 and $10. "If you can't afford even $2, then the show is free and I hope your luck improves."

Then he sets the star-shaped frame ablaze, turns up his pulsating taped music, backs up nearly to the end of the block to build some speed and hurls himself through the frame on his skateboard, to the sound of since we have nowhere to sit a standing ovation.

No large city is without its street performers or buskers, young men and (less often) young women, with no visible means of support, for whom all the world's a stage.

The Fireguy, whose real name is Brant Matthews, is one of perhaps 200 street performers of all kinds who appear on Toronto's avenues out of nowhere and bring the sidewalks alive with their energy as soon as the weather turns summery.

"A world without street performance is a sad place," Matthews, 31, muses over a beer. "Corporate interests have hijacked the world of entertainment and we are trying to get it back.

"A lot of people don't consider us real performers and feel sorry for us, but they've got it wrong. We love the street.

"It teaches you to face down your fear of rejection. On the street people give you money gladly if you are good."

"Robin Williams, Steve Martin and Eddie Izzard, who has sold-out performances in England, were all street performers," points out Matthews' friend Daniel Nimmo, a street acrobat joining the conversation.

"But if you do it for too long, it's not good. If you are 50 and on the street, you get bitter," says Nimmo, who's here from Australia.

Both Nimmo and Matthews are part of an explosion in street performers around the world. They say competition for a piece of pavement is greater than it has ever been, partly due to the numerous busker festivals that take place across the globe every summer. And performers are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

Like many of his colleagues, Matthews has a cell phone, a digital organizer, a Web site ( and a travel agent "You can only perform in Toronto eight months of the year." Nimmo has worked in 26 countries and does 300 shows a year.

"I introduced my skateboard-fire show in November 2003 in Singapore," Matthews says. He spent last winter performing there and in Australia. When he travels, he can count on accommodation with other buskers; when he's in Toronto, he says there's always an out-of-town street performer sleeping on the couch. Despite this camaraderie, buskers are leery of others stealing their acts.

"It's in the public domain," says Nimmo, "once you do it in the street."

To survive, these free spirits need not only talent, courage, boundless optimism, dry weather and generous patrons; they also need permits.

Patrick Carnegie, events manager at Dundas Square, says a roster of eight performers have permits to perform on the popular square and more could be added at any time. "There is no fixed number we are looking for unique and professional acts. The square opened a year ago and was slow during its first summer because of SARS. This year the response from crowds has been better."

`If you do it for too long, it's not good. If you are 50 and on the street, you get bitter.

Daniel Nimmo, acrobat


"Smart cities do what they can to attract street performers to locations within the city by making it a friendly place for us to come and easy to have areas where we can work; it creates vibrant street life," says Eli Chornenki, who does circus tricks and comedy.

Chornenki is also the organizer of second annual Toronto International Street Circus Festival (July 23-25) at the Distillery, one of 16 busker festivals across Canada. A second festival at the St. Lawrence Market, the BuskerFest, takes place at the end of August.

Chornenki's vision of such a festival done right will see 30 Canadian and foreign acts brought together by invitation only.

"I noticed in 10 or 15 years I've been performing that there are certain spots, like Granville Island in Vancouver, where they first try to attract performers, then they over-administrate it with licensing requirements and they drive the bigger acts away. When you arrive in town it might take a week and a week is too long for us. It's easier to go where you are welcome and you are treated as an artist."

In Toronto, the Distillery is considered the most welcoming place, with room for 100 or more spectators to gather around each performer.

"Usually you have to watch that you don't draw too big a crowd or you'll be shut down," says Nimmo. "The merchants will complain."

At the Distillery, a top street performer can collect $1,000 a night in tips, according to Matthews, who says he's never reached such a total. "I make enough to cover my expenses," is all he'll say when asked about his income.

Veronika Yang, program coordinator at Harbourfront, auditions new acts in April before allotting permits ($35 to $100 each depending on how many in the act) for the season. "I gave out 30 permits and I auditioned about 45 acts, compared to about 20 last year twice as many and the acts are better quality.

"Because we are family oriented, we look for acts that work with our family audiences. We have jugglers, fire artists, mimes but not the traditional mimes, magicians. We have a lot of Latin music groups, guitar singers ...

"Some are university students helping to pay tuition. They come from different walks of life and are generally very passionate about what they do."

Brant Matthews chose the street after he failed his audition for the National Theatre School in Montreal 12 years ago.

"I had my heart ripped out by (legitimate) theatre. I started juggling in Montreal, performing in nightclubs. I produced a play with a friend that my brother wrote and we put it on in Stratford, Colorado, Kentucky. I lost all my money but it was beautiful."

He fell in love with fire after his parents gave him a set of juggling torches. (He lifts his shirt to show me the flames tattooed on his side, like the name of a sweetheart.)

"Once I learned to juggle fire, I figured I might as well eat it," he says.

He ordered a book on fire eating from a circus supply store and did eventually learn, although not without pain.

"The first time I ate fire was when they asked me to be in the Montreal independent music awards show. Kerosene Caroline had cancelled and they asked me at the last minute.

"I used the wrong kind of fluid, Zippo lighter fluid instead of a heavy lamp oil, which is what you're supposed to have, and my whole face caught fire," he recalls ruefully.

So what's the trick? "There is no trick. As soon as the oxygen supply is cut off, the fire goes out. It's mind over matter."

He has done the Raptors' half-time show, corporate entertainment for IBM and has fire juggled in the Jackie Chan movie The Tuxedo. But the street is his preferred venue.

"It's the most honest form of entertainment. There is no such thing as a small show. You make the same effort regardless of the size of the audience. That's the integrity of being a street performer."

This is the first in an occasional series of profiles of Toronto street performers.
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Old 06-14-04, 03:11 AM   #7
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Butterfly If you are 50 and on the street ...

Bitter? ... Moi?
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